All you need to know about Internet Marketing in South Africa

“In the medium to longer term we believe the creative agency is moving into a new golden age, where more and more spend will move away from expensive, traditional mass media to content creation and dissemination through more effective, targeted digital channels.”

– Paul Jackson, Grey Advertising South Africa

Online marketing has taken advertising to a whole new level. The online directory has replaced the telephone book. Your business advertisement will no longer end up in the latest heap of recycling but will instead be available online 24/7 to potential customers in far reaches.

So where are we at?

A recent study conducted by World Wide Worx in collaboration with Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group has shown that as early as 2010 the number of South African internet users surpassed the 5 million mark. Since then, the numbers have been growing exponentially and by the end of 2015 we reached just under 25 million internet users – that’s almost 47% of our total population! Data shows that on average South African’s are spending just over 5 hours a day accessing the internet from laptops and computers and 3 hours a day from mobile phones.

What’s more – PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that by 2017 South African consumers will be spending a total of R59.6 billion on internet access (a massive leap from 2014’s R19.8 billion).

The ways in which South Africans access the internet are also changing. The days of chunky desktop computers are over and today’s generation of internet users are relying more heavily on smartphones as their primary portal to the World Wide Web. A report recently released by We Are Social shows that in 2015 mobile phones accounted for 61% of the share of web traffic in South Africa, while desktop computers and laptops only accounted for 32%. Additionally the South African Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has reported that half of South African smartphone users are now able to access more than 1GB of data monthly.

So what?

Not only are millions more people in South Africa accessing the internet than ever before but they are doing it in differently.

Put two and two together and you’ll see that this rise in internet usage is synonymous with a rise in online marketing. Not only is online marketing the way of the future, but stats show that it can provide companies with superb advertising for lower prices and with even better results – proven. With the advancement of the internet in South Africa we are able to conduct online marketing campaigns that are a lot more sophisticated than they have been previously.

We’ve covered a lot of technological ground lately, but as an emerging market economy we are still a couple steps behind. This creates an even greater urgency for us to keep an eye on those ahead of us and the trends and developments of internet marketing strategies globally.

One of these trends is SEO which has been ranked, by SEO specialists 1st Place, as “one of the top ROI [return of investment] solutions” in one’s online marketing toolbox. They couldn’t be any more right. While SEO is central to any online marketing campaign it isn’t the only channel available. PPC (pay-per-click) advertising is another hot shot of the online marketing world. The maturing of the digital marketing industry has seen the above services become more integrated – resulting in complete digital marketing strategies.

Social Media campaigns are also popular in online marketing as they allow brands greater communication and reach whilst also reinforcing brand identity. These campaigns however cannot be effectively measured, as can methods like SEO and PPC. However, ensuring Social Media is driven by targeted on-site content will ultimately drive SEO. Starting to pick up the value of integrated online marketing campaigns yet?

While it may sound simple in theory, South African retailers and larger corporates are still getting Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) incorrect when it comes to Social Media. After all, what is the point of having 400k fans when they aren’t engaging?

How does South Africa compare to the US?

Instead of telling you, we’ll show you.

Using Google Insights we’ve searched and compared the popularity of the term ‘online marketing’ vs. ‘digital marketing’ in South Africa and the US independently. The results below are from January 2004 and September 2015:

South African results:

The South African graph looks rather sporadic because of the minimal data coming through – most likely because of the low internet penetration pre-2010. Interesting to note though, is how word usage can change over time – before 2012 we see ‘online’ as dominant, whereas after 2012 we see ‘digital’ beginning to taking over. Our hunch is that this has happened because the web has evolved into a more integrated channel i.e. desktop, mobile and app.

US results:

The US graph shows an obvious increase in data because of the amount of people using online devices and desktops in the US. Apart from that though – the trends are much the same (except the possible glitch in Google’s matrix in 2013 – huge unknown spike in “online marketing”).

Get on the bandwagon- career opportunities

The digital marketing industry is an expansive one, filled with opportunities for both those with specialist skills and those with a more general online marketing skillset. A recent Digital Marketing Talent report has however shown that hiring trends have begun to shift towards those with experience in certain areas.

There is however much value and employability in being what has been coined a ‘general specialist’ – having a broad knowledge of the industry but a specialist skillset in one specific area. This is also commonly referred to as a T-Shaped marketer.

Erin Everhart, current director of digital marketing at the digital agency 352 explained that:  “One of the biggest things I see is that people are too specialized. It’s great, and you definitely need something to hang your hat on, but we’re at a position where I can’t hire someone who’s only going to do PPC or only going to do social. Basically, we look for good, creative marketers, who can come up with creative ideas across any medium, even if they’ve never worked in that medium before.”

Despite the above, research has shown that there are clearly many knowledge and skills gaps within the industry – in areas such as mobile, analytics and marketing automation. Digital marketing is an industry with many possibilities, and after looking at Adtalent’s salary survey below you’d be crazy not to get involved.

Adtalent salary survey



Apart from managerial skills required in the digital industry, the industry is in desperate need for specialist skills.

Distilled, a top UK Search Marketing company, are currently leading the way in developing “technically sound and crawlable platforms, content that speaks the language of the search audience, and an intelligent strategy for building robust brand signals”. This is how SEO should be managed and South African SEO strategists need to strive to improve their service offering to match the quality of the international competition.

It is without a doubt that specialist skills like SEO, PPC, content marketing and analytics are a growing need in South Africa and that their potential as internet marketing strategies can’t be ignored. SEO for one pulls all strategies together, acting as the pillar for organic traffic (which should be the bulk of every website’s traffic). With the rise of social media and changes in Google algorithms, all digital marketing services need to be integrated. No longer can marketers and business owners have a silo’d approach. If you decide you want to rank organically, you will need a content strategy, which means you will need a social strategy to promote your content and finally paid advertising (Adwords) will provide the foundation to collect search data.

Our two cents – career advice recently conducted an industry survey to their community members (predominately US and UK based). The survey showed that analytics was the service with most activity (at agency level) and the most requested by clients. From what we’ve experienced in the South African internet marketing industry – the demand is not there just yet. As clients become more knowledgeable they are however definitely beginning to pay more attention to meaningful analytics.

It thus makes sense to consider analytics as a secondary skill to support one’s primary career path i.e. content, SEO, paid advertising, conversion marketing etc. While the demand curve for internet marketing analytics is on the rise in South Africa, it has not yet reached the point of supporting full time careers – bar the few unique cases of full time employment.

We recently prepared a presentation for a group of AAA Advertising students around the subject of analytics – check it out:

Web Analytics Reporting and Strategy

Article taken from Webgrowth